Monday, November 14, 2016

We're Still Here

This is not a politics blog.  Hell, it's not really even an active blog, anymore.  But it's the platform that I have, so I'll use it...

But, I wanted to write down what I have been feeling over the past week, one that I think will be remembered as one of the most tumultuous in American history, but I hope will not be seen as the beginning of its end.  I know that I don't come off very well in this, but I don't want to hide from that.  I want to take my medicine and grow as a person.

I was, and still am, a proud liberal.  A progressive Democrat.  An ally.  Woke AF (I thought). Knowledgeable and educated and overconfident and stuck in an echo chamber of my own making.  Call it what you will, because on Tuesday night, what I considered my side was soundly defeated, and I share the blame with millions of others.  Donald Trump fed more openly on racial prejudice, religious bigotry, xenophobia, and misogyny more than any other candidate in my 40 years.  I was not alive for the campaign of George Wallace or the presidency of Andrew Jackson, but Trump made no real attempt at all to kick the racists out of the room. Instead, he blew that dog whistle long and loudly, calling Mexican immigrants rapists (and some -- he assumes -- good people); threatening closure of American mosques and a ban on all Muslim immigration "until he figures it out" (keep in mind his Twitter account was taken away from him!); the return of stop and frisk and the vilifying of Black Lives Matter; a lukewarm denial of David Duke's endorsement and a continued flirting with alt-right media, whether retweeting racist symbols, or the presence of his proxies on White Supremacist media.

 He's also a serial liar who is completely unqualified for the office of President.  All those things should have disqualified him.  The "Pussy Grabber" tape alone should have disqualified him.  Hell, Mitt Romney, who was sane and smart and professional even though I disagree vehemently with his politics, got burned for "Binders Full of Women".  What the fucking fuck does that even mean?

I like Hillary Clinton, and I came to like her more and  more through the course of the campaign.  I voted for Bernie in the primary, and I was always going to go Democrat in the general, but Hillary graded out nicely (especially compared to Trump!) by the fact checkers, she's undeniably smart, extremely experienced, and while I think she is not a great orator like Obama, she seemed Presidential.  Serious.  Prepared. Thoughtful.  But also kind and compassionate.  There were always disadvantages, some obvious and some apparent in hindsight.  She had the baggage of an email scandal; an image tarnished by a partisan extended investigation into Benghazi; and perhaps Bill's infidelities (and blame erroneously placed on HRC for them!) cost some of the moral high ground she had over "Pussy Grabber"; and, tragically in 2016 -- her voice is called shrill.  She could never attack Trump as sarcastically and bitingly as Bernie, Uncle Joe, or Obama.  But still, America would choose her over a serial liar whose political fame is built on a bullshit birtherist conspiracy, right?  Yes, there was baggage, much of which belongs to Bill, but I could clearly see within her a good person who fought her whole career to make a better America compared to a blowhard narcissist who only cares about himself.

Obviously, I despise Donald Trump.  However, I was very much compassionate (I thought!) to Trump's appeal. Much of the country has not prospered during the last 8 years. Manufacturing jobs continue to leave our shores, the great steel mills of northwest Indiana, where my mother's family hails from, doesn't employ whole towns anymore. Income inequality is rampant, and both a call to "Make America Great Again" and Bernie Sanders' populist message about income inequality resonated.  But, even with some shenanigans by the DNC, Bernie was soundly defeated in the primary, and it's not clear whether Trump would have won the Republican nomination if it had rallied around a single candidate.  But still, I feel like I understand the appeal of his central message.

 But even as I saw that appeal, I just didn't see how anyone could look at this man, Donald Trump, and see a good person or really anything but a con man, and I was not shy about blabbing it to everyone I knew, and a lot of people that I didn't know, on social media.  I donated to political campaigns against him, the first time in my life I've given money to them.  I watched the polls.  I obsessed over the polls.   I watched them run neck and neck up until that first debate, when he brought up temperament, and Hillary laughed at him, along with (I imagined!) all of the country.  Then more stories about her e-mails --- even while his scary ties to Russia, Trump University, a bullshit foundation that he doesn't even contribute to, and an alleged rape case were being ignored.  I cringed as the gap in the poll narrowed, and sighed with relief as she appeared to pull away again.

That Tuesday morning, I walked up to my polling place feeling confident that I was casting a historic vote, helping to elect our first female president and issue a nationwide proclamation against white supremacy.   Despite Trump signs outnumbering Clinton signs in my township by hundreds, I had been confident.  Yard signs don't vote, and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh would help keep this key state blue.  When I arrived at the polls that morning, though, the lines were much longer than I'd ever seen, and it was like walking into a (small) Trump rally.  Trump signs at the polling place, a Trump tent with volunteers outside the door, and almost every voter in line besides me having a Trump hat or pin.  No one was doing anything wrong, but I could tell that central PA was coming out in force in a way they had not in any election since I'd moved back here in 2004.  

But the early voting and exit polls still seemed to favor a Clinton until that evening, as state after state was too close to call long into the night before the key states of Florida, Ohio, Michigan, and even PA turned red. The story that was told long into Wednesday morning was one of deep division, a Trump electoral landslide even as Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. 

My response was shock, and anger.



And later, as the chances of a Clinton comeback dwindled to zero:



So, I still don't see anything but a con man, but I see a con man who will take the Oath of of Office in 2 months.  And I am crushed.  I feel like my indeed I stand by every bad word I ever said or wrote or thought Donald J. Trump.  And I also feel guilt, like my generation had a chance to stop the rise of a Hitler-like figure, and we failed our test.  Do I really think that we woke up in Germany in the 1930s or that Trump is the equivalent of Hitler?  On Wednesday morning, yes I did.

But as I've processed my emotions over the past few days, I know that is wrong. I hope that America would not stand for such a thing and I've been reminded over and over that there are good people on both sides of the political spectrum.  I know that the VAST majority of Trump voters aren't racists or bigots and didn't vote for him because he is one or because David Duke also likes him -- and that even though I accused them of a lack of compassion toward minorities who stand to suffer under a Trump administration, I know that I was just as guilty of a lack of compassion toward many of his supporters.  I knew that I needed to reach back out to people that I may probably insulted (and the full fury and extent of my facebook rants on news media pages are not shown here, just what I wrote on my own page and not including comments).



So, take a minute to do the "Jerry" chant, if you've read this far.  I promise to give no respect to President Trump until it is earned. I stand by my criticisms.  But still, my smug brand of liberalism must end.  Liberals and conservatives need to listen respectfully to each other.  They need to read each other's books and have dialogue rather than arguments.  And their congressional representation needs to remember how to cooperate and compromise for the greater good, not just how to obstruct until their party gets back into power (I'm sure the Dems were just as bad during W's presidency.

I know I sound like a total asshole in this blog entry, and that's because I am one.  I hope I can change that about myself and be receptive to other points of view.  It's safe to wonder whether Bernie or Biden would have won this election.  I think Hillary would have been a better president than either one, but they might have been a better candidate.  Just like I think Kasich or even low-energy, but normal and kind-seeming Jeb Bush would be a much better leader than Trump, but could not have rallied the level of enthusiasm needed to win.  Those are all questions for the parties and their strategists, because what's left for Americans is to fight for what we believe in. Fight compassionately and respectfully, but fight.  For me, that's this:  

  • Immigrants, they get the job done!  How can we argue that?  It says so in "Hamilton!" No one dislikes "Hamilton", do they?  We are a nation of immigrants, and indeed we've treated its original inhabitants HORRIBLY and each wave has faced discrimination but ultimately made the country better than it was before.  Yes, there needs to be reform, but "build a wall and Mexico will pay" is just a ridiculously oversimplified and yet infeasible idea.  

  • Muslim Americans have the same right to worship as they please as any other faith. I am not in general a fan of George W. Bush's presidency and I am a fan of Obama's, but they both were very careful to emphasize that we are not at war with Islam.  ISIS isn't Islam any more than the KKK is Christianity.
  • Black Lives Matter doesn't mean "ONLY Black Lives Matter", it means "Black Lives Matter TOO".  Supporting it doesn't mean you're anti-police or that you haven't also had struggles in life.
  • I can't believe I have to say this in 2016, but women should be paid equal to their male counterparts and judged on a fair and level playing field.  Hillary was "shrill" and is thought of negatively, but meanwhile the president-elect mocked a disabled reporter like a 4th-grade bully and still got elected.  And don't normalize "locker-room talk" or sexual assault.
  • Torture is wrong. Be better than ISIS.
  • Man-made climate change is real. Belief in science should not be partisan.  
  • Gay Marriage should be here to stay.  Love is love. Don't like it?  Don't get gay married, then.  Mike Pence, I'm looking at you!
  • People like David Duke and White House Strategist (ugh!) Steve Bannon are going to point to this as a victory for them, and it is.  But it is not permanent.  A visit to the Penn Archaeology  Museum on Friday reminded me that evil deeds are not new to America, or to history, but over and over, civilization survives. And throughout American history, we've moved slowly to greater tolerance.  Both liberals and conservatives need to be open to dialogue and respect free speech, which does include hatred and bigotry.  But we should use our free speech to condemn hatred and bigotry, too.  There's a time when compassion and kindness should end.  David Duke is celebrating now, but history will destroy him and his views.  The sooner the better, in my opinion.
  • Lastly, we have to recognize that America, as it stands right now, isn't working for everyone.  There's not income equality or opportunity equality. I sure as hell don't think Donald J. Trump will make it so or even really cares to, but it's a worthy goal nonetheless.

Trump has already walked back some of his campaign promises.  He might not be as bad as I think.  Perhaps he won't build a wall, or prosecute Hillary, the move of a third-rate banana republic dictator, start crazy wars, or try to appoint justices to overturn Obergefell vs. Hodges or enable open bigotry. I hope people and the country prosper under his leadership, even while I still think he's a terrible person who shouldn't be forgiven for empowering the worst racist elements of American society with his rhetoric.

Long live the resistance!  This day we fight.




Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Rise Up


Yes.  My wife and I listened to a lot of Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Hamilton" on the way to and from Virginia Beach, but that's  not the point. 

The point is that Shamrock weekend is, for me as a runner, a "Mountaintop Experience".  The phrase refers to the biblical account of when some of Jesus' inner circle of disciples, Peter, James, and John, went to pray with Him on a mountaintop at which they saw Him revealed in all His glory.  In modern context, it's often used to refer to an event of spiritual awakening or a high point, contrasted to "the valley", everyday life in which someone lives and works and struggles every day.

I mean no disrespect to the religious connotations of the phrase, but I think the concept can apply in other walks of life.  Last summer, my company's sales meeting felt like a mountaintop experience of sorts to me.  I presented in front of a group for the first time and felt like I brought the house down with wit and good humor; watched a highly respected colleague present about (among other things) the importance of my role and how I had helped him; and left the meeting feeling more excited, valued, and connected with my coworkers than I had in years.
 
A few days later, I got a rude awakening when I realized that our new CEO, who sat through both of those presentations, had no idea who I was or what I did.
 
As a runner, Shamrock Weekend is a mountaintop experience.  It's the place where in 2011, I ran my first marathon, and where the 8K has beecome my favorite race of all, a beacon of hope and fun in running years lost to injury and malaise, and finally, where I finished the half this year to be a participant on both days for the first time.  In addition to the happy memories surrounding the event, Virginia Beach is a place Chris and I have come to feel very at home.  We always have fun and leave Shamrock Weekend feeling proud of our running accomplishments and looking forward to next year.
 
Now I have left the mountaintop, excited and motivated, but also realizing that over the past 5 years my motivation has died in the summer heat. I train for Shamrock -- or at least gut it out on race day -- have a blast at the parties, and then it's over in a flash.

If a Fall half or full marathon -- or my goal of a long-delayed return to the 26.2 next year at Shamrock -- is to be a reality, I must stay more focused.  Get up earlier.  Run more.  Get stronger.  Believe that I can do this again...and turn that belief into reality in the valley of the post-Shamrock everyday non-beach world that I have struggled to train in for the last 4 years.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Brian's Terrible Race Photos -- 2016 Edition

I was really happy after Shamrock Townebank 8K!  I mean it.  Happy with my finishing time, happy with my level of effort, happy with the weather.  

So, why do I look like a Tyrannosaurus?  Does my face always look like that?  

Don't say anything!  Just don't say anything!!  Because I'm the most terrifying predator to ever walk the Cretaceous Period!  ROOOOAAAAAAAAAR!





Monday, March 21, 2016

Race Reports: 2016 Anthem Shamrock Half Marathon and 2016 TowneBank Shamrock 8K

Another year, another successful running trip to Shamrock Weekend in Virginia Beach.  For the first time, I competed in the Dolphin Challenge consisting of both the 8K and half -- except since I didn't register for it in time, I was really just separately running both races.  But the point remains...success!

TowneBank 8K

Don't tell the half marathon, but I think this is my favorite race of them all.  Year after year, this race has been a fun, flat, fast (definitions of fast vary by year) race with a great after party.  This year, I busted my a** for a sub 55-minute finish, my familiarity with the course helping me come in well under my pre-race goal of 60 minutes.

Conditions were near perfect for me: high 40s and dry, and I attacked the course more aggressively than I intended.  This race really is the best parts of the marathon course, boardwalk and downtown Virginia Beach, without any of the long quiet sections south or north of town.   Visibly excited, I pumped my fist excitedly as I passed Neptune for the finish before meeting Chris and enjoying a few more Yuenglings than I should have had.

I often say that while I enjoy being runner, I don't really actually enjoy running.  This race always reminds me that this really can be fun.

The after party was a blast, especially when TowneBank's hilarious mascot, Town E. Bear, went up in stage with the band.  After an 8K and X number of Yuengs, this was the funniest thing I had ever seen.



Anthem Half Marathon

This one was not fun.  Everything J&A can control always goes perfectly, but they can't control the weather (Everyone knows that's Pudge the Fish).  The weather at the start of this one was MISERY.  Gale-force winds and a driving rain.  I love to inspire Chris and I (Chris hates it) with Aragorn's speech from "Return of the King" bit I really did think this was the that the courage of men (at least this one) failed.

But...running in a cold rain is actually a slight improvement over huddling helplessly against a tiny tree to get out of the wind.  The first two miles up Atlantic were tough, but the rain slacked and conditions were nice as we ran through the woods along Shore Drive.  Then...Fort Story happened.  It was amazing how little of the Fort I remembered from the marathon in 2011, but both times I have run this section, I have found it to be challenging as the winds buffeted us again.  After leaving the base, I gratefully partook of cookies and beer offered by kindly spectators. 

The long trudge back down Atlantic was challenging and at times absurd, but the finish on the boardwalk was worth it as always.  It felt great to -- after 5 years -- earn a finisher's hat again.
The after party was again a blast, with more Yuenglings and Buckshot, a fun country cover band.  I'm not dancing because I'm cool...I'm dancing because I'm freezing and to keep my legs from cramping.
Honestly, I just can't write enough about how much fun J&A makes this weekend, and I'm already looking forward to next year's festival.



(This bear is the funniest mascot ever after a race.)

(The haul for the weekend.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Race Report: 2016 Under Armour Kelly St. Patrick's Day Shamrock 5K

I hate this race.  Every year, I blog about how much I hate this race.  The crowds, the lack of pace signs, too-long beer lines at the postrace party, the crowds.

And every year, I come back to this race, mostly for the post - race celebration we always have at a local pub.

I've put down some good times here.  26:14 in 2010, our first crack at it, was my best.  Tapered to a 30 minute finish in 2011 a week before my first marathon, and came back strong with a 26:42 in 2012 while recovering (so I thought) from what turned out to be my compartment syndrome.  This year, I ran a 32:55 and said afterwards that "I ran the shit out of that race".  That’s not one of my best 5K times by any means, but it's quite a but faster than I've been in training this year, when I've pretty consistently been a 12 - minute miler.

It helped that most of the first mile is downhill, and the last mile mostly flat.  There's some hills in the second mile and beginning of the third (coming back up Key Highway toward Light St.) but I felt strong...or at least "not weaker" on the hills.  Thanks, Mt. Wolf.

I did have the feeling at about halfway that I was running this faster than I should have and wouldn't be able to finish without a walk break or two, but the cool weather helped me hang in to the end.

I'm very happy with a time that I would have been pissed about 4 or 5 years ago, but that's something I can work on.  I would like to get myself back under 30 minutes in the 5K this year, but I need to balance that with an overall focus on base mileage and long runs for a possible marathon attempt in the fall.

Whether or not that happens, I'm pretty sure you'll see me at the start of this race next March.

PROS:
Fast course, great crowd support, the crowd of green-clad runners heading down Charles St. is a cool sight, you can watch the parade afterward, and sometimes the Oriole Bird is in the parade.

CONS:
Crowded course, lack of pace signs, the name of the race is annoyingly long and I can't call it "Shamrock 5K" when so many people are familiar with the Shamrock races in VA Beach the next weekend.

Friday, January 22, 2016

One Last Run Before the Snow

As Winter Storm Jonas pummels Central PA, it seems like I probably won't be getting out on the roads any time soon. 

At least my last "long run" (I was due for a step back week, anyway), 5 miles before work today, was a good one.  I felt great on this run...despite going out for a beer and tacos at Mexitaly (my favorite restaurant in York) the night before since we'd be snowed in all weekend.

Maybe pre-race tacos were the key to excellence all along?  Ok, probably not, but they were really good tacos.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Good Run? I Guess?

Today, I ran my Monday Hill route again.  I felt terrible.  I was breathing heavily almost the entire route, and I needed 3 walk breaks instead of the one I needed last week.  I was writing it off as just "one of those days", when I looked down at my watch and saw that I was finishing a minute faster than my time last week.

So, I'm not sure whether this was a good run or not.  Last week, I lowered my time by a minute from the previous week and felt great.  I think I would have rather felt good with no time change.  I'm certainly still finding my pace again.  I used to be very consistent in my training and be able to tell what pace I was running by level of effort (like the "I'm dying" I put down at my 6:21 mile at Harrisburg in 2011).  Now...I'm not.  Some days I'm faster, some days I'm slower.  I care more about distance than speed, but I have to admit it's frustrating to be finishing 3 miles in the time it used to take to run four.   In my defense, it was 29 degrees F with a wind chill in the single digits.  29F, to me, is long-sleeves or jacket (probably not both), light gloves, visor, ear warmer, and shorts weather.  Single digits is jacket, Under Armour, long pants, hat, gloves.  I dressed for the wind chill, despite my route being mostly sheltered from the wind.  In the bright noon-time sun with little wind, I had way more layers than I needed.  That said, it was brutally cold tonight.  I'm very glad I got my run in during the day.  I love running in the cold, but tonight was way too cold and windy for me.

Anyway, despite not feeling so great on today's run, it caps off another pretty good week of running and fitness.  (Except Wednesday, where I was fitness whole pizza in my mouth!)  In addition to last week's hill run on Monday, I ran 2 on Thursday night with Chris, and then 6 miles in 1:09:50 on Saturday.  That's an 11:36/mile pace, not far off from where I need to be to finish a marathon in 5 hours, whether it be this fall or next spring.  I'm hoping that with more running, more hills, and some speedwork that I'd like to mix in once my endurance is built back up a little more, I'll get a little faster so I have a little cushion should I once again need to walk some of those later miles.

These first two weeks of January have been the best, most consistent stretch of running and working out that I've had since my surgery (mumbles) almosttwoyearsago.

It's something.



(This goofy fleece headband has a hole for a hat brim.  It was more than I needed today, but is still a neat, low-tech piece of gear that I hadn't used before.  The beard is just for show, it's not thick enough to keep my face warm, yet.)